Even before the ‘stay at home’ directive, Podcasts were experiencing somewhat of a golden era with many brands tuning into the marketing opportunity. The best performing podcast genres in 2019 included Entertainment (Empire Film Podcast, Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review), Comedy (My Dad Wrote A Porno, 3 Shots of Tequila) and Discussion and Talk Shows (How To Fail with Elizabeth Day, The Guilty Feminist). Around 7.1 million people in the UK – or an eighth of the population – now listen to podcasts each week, with Ofcom research finding that half of listeners joined the podcast wave in the last 2 years.


Reflecting the steady rise in podcast listeners, Sony Music recently signed a content partnership deal with audio producer Somethin’ Else to expand its development of podcast shows across multiple genres, which includes a Claudia Winkleman/Professor Tanya Byron podcast about family and parenting issues – something that many parents may well find beneficial in the current housebound situation.


In February, Spotify announced they were paying $250m for The Ringer, a website podcast network creating sports, pop culture, politics and tech content. This followed Spotify’s numerous podcast company acquisitions in 2019. Spotify has experienced exponential growth in podcast hours streamed, with an increase of around 200% year-on-year globally, and has stated podcasts are driving increased overall engagement and retention on the platform. 


Rather than simple advertising and sponsorship around podcast shows and series, b2c and b2b brands from various industries have been creating their own podcasts across different genres. In the UK, great examples include Boohoo.com’s Get the Scoop and Natwest’s Championing Women’s Voices, while in the US brands including Slack, Sephora and McDonalds, have also come up with creative podcast content.


With people forced to stay indoors, the last week of March has seen a 7% rise in global podcast listenership, with education, entertainment, science and medicine and health (unsurprisingly) seeing impressive spikes. An additional 1,400 podcast episodes featuring political and medical updates on coronavirus have been hosted on the Acast network alone. Episodes referencing ‘Corona’ or ‘COVID’ in the episode title have been downloaded more than 27.5 million times globally to date, showing podcasts are increasingly being used to access news. That said, the current Top 10 Podcasts are dominated by the Entertainment and Comedy genres, reflecting how consumers, above all else, are looking for some escapism and humour to brighten the long days and evenings. 


As podcasts continue to grow in popularity, in the short to medium term brands can perform an important role by developing new podcast content that entertains and informs their consumers, offering them a welcome distraction as well as comforting reassurance.